Ability, Not Age, Should Determine Driving Privileges

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Arizona lawmakers are considering raising the legal age for driving to 18 years old. Some states have already done this in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents related to young drivers.

We do not agree with this strategy. It is not the fact that the drivers are young that is the problem. They are simply inexperienced or ill-trained.

We suggest that instead of raising the driving age, that we raise the standards that must be met to qualify for a driver's license.

Student airplane pilots must log a significant amount of hours in the cockpit before they can be considered competent to fly alone. This is because an airplane is a complicated and potentially dangerous vehicle.

So are automobiles -- in fact, probably more dangerous, considering their number and their proximity to innocent bystanders.

Currently, a teen-ager can turn 16 and walk out of the Department of Motor Vehicles with a license after only a few minutes behind the wheel of a car -- spent performing a short on-street driving test. During that brief test, they are not confronted with rain, snow, congested traffic, angry drivers, the stress of running late for an appointment, people or animals that run into the street, additional teen-agers in the car, or other dangerous situations.

We recommend that the law be changed to require parents or guardians to document that their children have spent at least 50 hours behind the wheel with their learner's permit. We also think that the state should make the on-street driving test more rigorous.

Most 16-year-olds have shown that they can drive a car safely. It is not fair to label all of them incompetent. It is fair to expect them to be qualified with experience.

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